NYCC: Archie Comics' Future Includes Katy Keene, Possibly The Punisher

The Archie Comics panel at New York Comic Con opened with a mini-lovefest, as Archie co-CEO Jon Goldwater, Batman producer and Archie writer and Batman movie producer Michael Uslan and longtime editor-in-chief Victor Gorelick formed a mutual admiration society of three.

Perhaps everyone was just in a good mood, or perhaps the company brass were trying to counter the bad publicity kicked up this year by a contentious lawsuit between the two Archie CEO's, Goldwater and Nancy Silberkleit. The Archie editors are a genial bunch anyway, but at NYCC they were going out of their way to pat each other on the back.

Goldwater kicked off the panel by congratulating Uslan, who recently received an honorary doctorate from Monmouth University. When the applause died down, Uslan quipped, "As the world's first doctor of comic books, I just have one thing to tell you: Read two issues of 'Jughead' and call me in the morning."

Goldwater then turned to Gorelick, "the great 53-year employee of Archie Comics... the man who has made all this possible after all these decades," and introduced his new book, "The Art of Betty and Veronica." Edited by Gorelick and Craig Yoe, the book is a deluxe collection of pin-up art and comics stories by Archie artists such as Dan DeCarlo and Harry Lucey and will be out in November, although copies were available at the Archie booth. "This was a year in the making," said Gorelick. "I want to thank Jon for giving me the opportunity to do this. And I want to say one more thing. I have known Jon all his life, and I have really gotten to know him over the past three years. His enthusiasm is contagious. He inspires everyone who works at Archie Comics. Thank you Jon for your leadership and direction."

Later, it was Uslan's turn to commend Goldwater. "So what's the Batman guy doing here?" he said. "Well, the Batman guy is here because this guy [Goldwater] has turned Archie Comics into what I call 'The House of New Ideas.' This is a creative wellspring, this is a place where nobody tells you no, they encourage every creator here, everyone behind the scenes, to just come up with stuff. It's creative freedom like I haven't seen too often in this industry." Archie is important because it represents American pop culture all over the world, he said. " It's so darn relevant to the entire world. I can't think of a cooler place to be working. I've got some secret projects I am working on with these folks... stay tuned up and down the line, you are only seeing the beginning of what is going to be some amazing comics, cartoons, movies, TV shows, video games, merchandising coming out. I could not be more excited to be here, and thank you for letting me join the party."

In between the thumbs-ups, Archie marketing director Adam Tracey led the panel through a number of Archie products, some of which had already been announced, including Archie's partnership with Gogii Games. Gogii CEO George Donovan explained the "Betty or Veronica" game, an interactive comic in which users can take part in an Archie story. The characters will stay true to the known Archie characters, Donovan said, and the game will be constantly updated. "We are going to be watching and monitoring the things you are doing in the game, the things that you love to play with in the game, and then every two weeks, month, two months, we will have all new quests, challenges and comics you can read in the game," he said. "It's going to be something you will be able to play forever." The game will be available in the first quarter of 2013, but Donovan said readers who joined through the Archie site could be beta testers.

Part of Archie's strategy has been to reach back into their 70 years worth of comics and characters and bring back older properties. Paul Kaminski introduced their New Crusaders digital app, which features superheroes so old, he said, "Captain America wasn't even a glimmer in the eye when The Shield debuted." The app includes both old comics and new stories about the next generation of these superheroes.

There were also a trio of Sabrina the Teenage Witch projects. For the 50th anniversary of Sabrina the Teenage Witch, Archie has compiled an e-book titled "Sabrina: 50 Magical Stories" that includes an origin story for Sabrina that has never been printed before. In fact, the story was simply hand drawn and scanned, and not colored or inked, Tracey said. The e-book is on sale for $4.99 until October 31, after which the price will go up. Tracey also showed some test footage from "Sabrina: Secrets of a Teenage Witch," an animated cartoon that will start running next summer on The Hub in the U.S. and the Disney Channel in the rest of the world. And finally, Mike Pellerito held up the first volume of "Sabrina the Teenage Witch: The Magic Within," a four-volume compilation of Tania Del Rio's manga-style Sabrina stories, done in black and white at manga-digest size. "You guys are our bosses, I don't know if you realize that," said Pellerito. "Everyone started buying this book crazy on the iVerse Archie app. We gave issue 1 away for free to be cool, and then you bought all the others."

Some new Little Archie cartoons are also in the works, Goldwater said, and he said there would be some Josie announcements in 2013. A number of previously announced storylines were teased, including the Archie/Glee crossover, "Jughead: Grill of Thrones," the Sonic the Hedgehog/Mega Man crossover, and George Takei's visit to the Kevin Keller comic. In response to a question about the Jughead comic, which recently went on hiatus, Goldwater said, "There is a Jughead -- I'm not going to use the word reboot. There's something going on."

On the digital scene, Michael Murphey of iVerse, which handles the Archie Comics app, said that users have downloaded 11 million Archie products since the service was launched in 2009. In late 2013, Archie and iVerse will launch a foreign-language service next year that will bring Archie comics to readers in 13 different languages, including Japanese and Hindi.

Paul Kaminski, the executive editorial director, spoke a bit about the New Crusaders, Archie's digital-first superhero series, which is based on their Red Circle properties. The New Crusaders feature the vintage superhero The Shield -- "Captain America wasn't even a glimmer in the eye of the world yet when The Shield debuted," Kaminski said -- who is trying to lead the children of the original Red Circle superheroes and not having an easy time of it.

The panel wrapped up with a question-and-answer session that focused on individual properties, including the news that Katy Keene will be back and a digital edition of "The Punisher Meets Archie" may be in the works.

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